Italian submarines in World War Two

Italian Commanders

Mario Pouchain

Born  8 Jul 1909Rome


  T.V.Tenente di Vascello
  C.C.Capitano di Corvetta


20 Apr 1942 Medaglia d'argento al valore militare

Career information

PERLA (T.V. C.O.): from 13.02.1940 to 25.07.1940.
He was later promoted to C.C. but was captured at the fall of Massawa.

Commands listed for Mario Pouchain

Submarine Type Rank From To
Perla (I.33 or I.30)Coastal / Sea goingT.V.13 Feb 194025 Jul 1940

Ships hit by Mario Pouchain

No ships hit by this Commander.

War patrols listed for Mario Pouchain

 SubmarineDateTimePortArr. dateArr. timeArr. portMilesDescription
1.Perla (I.33 or I.30)19 Jun 19401430Massawa20 Jul 1940MassawaPatrolled near Ras El Bir in Gulf of Tajura. Suffered heavily from the breakdown of the air-conditioning system and methylene chloride gas and most of her crew were intoxicated. Apparently ran aground 60 miles south of Massawa or 30 miles south of Sciab-Sciach on 26th June, and was sighted by the sloop HMS Shoreham. On 27th June, she was shelled by the light cruiser HMNZS Leander and the destroyers HMS Kingston and HMS Kandahar. Perla replied with her gun but then her commanding officer ordered her crew to abandon ship at about noon on the 27th (fifteen killed), but the intervention of eight S.81 bombers forced the three enemy ships to disengage and Perla was taken in tow and returned to Massawa for docking.
  20 Jun 1940During the day, while proceeding submerged to her patrol area, an electrician, who was at his station in the electric motors, suffered a heat stroke. As the air conditioning system did not appear to function properly, Pouchain ordered its verification. During the same evening, between 2000 and 2400/20, more cases manifested themselves. The crew suffered heavily from the breakdown of the air-conditioning system and methylene chloride gas causing intoxication of most of her crew.

At dawn on 22 June, the submarine dived 3 miles off the coast of Djibouti. As the submarine progressed toward her patrol area, disturbing signs of mental alienation, extreme fatigue, abnormal behaviour appeared.

At dawn on 24 June, the submarine dived 5 miles north of Perim. On 25 June, the temperature inside the submarine had reached 64 degrees. The First Officer had now completely lost his senses. Pouchain was himself in no condition to perform his duties and delegated them to his navigation officer and the midshipman. One crew member had succumbed and his body was committed to the deep.
  26 Jun 1940
1900C (e)
The submarine was returning from her patrol when she was sighted by the destroyer HMS Kingston (Lieutenant Commander P. Somerville) at a range of 5 miles, steering 340° at 12 knots. The destroyer was proceeding independently. The submarine sighted the destroyer at 3,000 metres and crash-dived, as Kingston fired three 4.7" salvoes.

At 1920 hours, the destroyer obtained an ASDIC contact at 1,200 yards. and dropped patterns of depth charges at 1927 (5 DCs set from 50 to 150 feet), 1934 (6 DCs set from 50 to 150 feet) and 2000 hours (6 DCs set from 150 to 250 feet). After the third attack, oil patches were observed. The submarine was believed to have been sunk and HMS Kingston left the scene.

In fact, Perla had escaped serious damage and after two hours closed the coast submerged. She surfaced as she reached the Searched Channel only to run aground.
  27 Jun 19401200+
(e) 14° 26'N, 41° 21'E
At 0641 hours, the torpedo boat Giovanni Acerbi sailed from Massawa to the assistance of Perla. The destroyers Leone and Pantera were to support her but Leone had engine defects and could not sail.

Early in the afternoon of 27th June, three enemy warships arrived. They were the light cruiser HMNZS Leander with the destroyers HMS Kingston and HMS Kandahar which located the submarine aground. Pouchain ordered the gun manned and the destruction of the secret documents but the gun was jammed and resistance was useless. The submarine was evacuated except Pouchain, the midshipman Biagio Gallo and the electrician Arduino Forgiarini. The latter refused to leave and stated his determination to stand by his captain but a shell exploded near him and he was killed outright while Pouchain and Gallo were thrown in the sea. Forgiarini was posthumously awarded the Medaglia d'Oro.

By now, most of the crew had reached the beach. Two Italian aircraft were observed attacking the enemy ships while a RAF aircraft bombed the submarine. According to British sources, HMNZS Leander began shelling her, claiming seven 6" hits. However, eight Savoia S.81 bombers arrived on the scene, forcing the cruiser to withdraw. A Walrus aircraft also joined the fight with a bomb attack, claiming a near-miss.

As the shelling continued, the survivors hid behind the dunes. At dusk, the shelling had stopped and they returned to the beach and some went back on the submarine to collect water and provisions. A group of survivors decided to walk to the Sciab-Sciach light which was about 7 miles away and were rescued at about 0700 hours on the 28th by the destroyer Manin. The remainder of the crew had remained on the beach near the submarine and decided to walk inland. They reached the village of Sereità in the afternoon of the 29th and were rescued the following day by a relief column sent from Massawa. Fifteen crew members had succumbed from heat, gas intoxication or enemy shelling. On 20th July, an unidentified requisitioned tug from Massawa managed to tow away Perla. This was just in time as a British naval force consisting of the light cruisers HMAS Hobart, HMS Ceres and the destroyers HMS Kimberley and HMS Kingston sailed from Aden on the evening of 20 July to complete her destruction.

3 entries. 1 total patrol entries (1 marked as war patrols) and 3 events.

Italian Commanders

Italian Submarines